The Villas Of The Ancients Illustrated. By Robert Castell

Robert Castell

RA Collection: Book

Record number




London:: Printed for the Author., MDCCXXVIII.

Physical Description

[8], 128, [2] p., [13] pl. (11 fold.) [9 pl. unnumbered, 4 lettered A-D]: illus.; 489 mm. (Folio).

General Note

Pages 81, 82 are misnumbered as 57, 58.


[T.-p., dedic.] - The Preface - A List Of The Subscribers - [Text and plates:] Part I [Text of Pliny Letters 2:17 in Latin and English]; Remarks on Laurentinum; Part II. The Villas Of Varro, Columella &c.; Part III. [Text of Pliny Letters 5:6 in Latin and English]; Remarks on Tuscum - Index; Errata.

Responsibility Note

Plates [1], [6], A-D and [11] are signed as engraved by P. Fourdrinier. Most head- and tail-pieces are signed as engraved by G. King.

The work is dedicated by the author to Richard, Earl of Burlington.


Royal Institue of British Architects, British Architectural Library ... Early printed books, 1 (1994), no. 581; E. Harris and N. Savage, British Architectural Books (1990), 110; J. Archer, Literature of British domestic architecture (1985), 36.2; Johns Hopkins University, The Fowler Architectural Collection(1961), no. 81, p.67-8.

For other 17th- and 18th-century studies of Pliny's villas see: J.-F. Felibien, Plans et les descriptions de deux ... maisons de campagne de Pline (Paris, 1699); G. M. Lancisi, 'Dissertatio de Plinianae villae', in Dissertatio de generatione fungorum by L.F. Marsili (Rome, 1714); F.A. Krubsacius in Das Neueste aus der Anmuthigen Gelehrsamkei, 6-7, 11-12 (1760, 1762); P.J. Marques, Delle ville di Plinio (Rome, 1796).
ESTC, T50805

Summary Note

Earlier dates of 1726 or 1727 appear on five head- and tail-pieces.

Castell's study concentrates on two villas described in some detail in the letters of Pliny the younger - that at Laurentium, on the coast near Ostia, and the Tusculum, in the Appennines.

Ancient Roman villas and gardens had become models for country houses in the sixteenth century in Italy. Their influence may be traced in the Vatican Belvedere, Villa Madama and Villa Giulia at Rome and Palazzo del Te at Mantua, and in the writings and designs of Alberti, Serlio, Scamozzi and Palladio. The present book, dedicated to Lord Burlington, appeared in Britain at a time when Burlington and others were building their own villas, modelled on those of Palladio and the ancients - such as Pope's Villa at Twickenham (1720), Stourhead (1721-4), Mereworth (ca. 1723), Mavisbank (1723-39), Marble Hill (1724-9), and Burlington's own Chiswick House (1725-9). The villas and gardens of the Romans would remain an inspiration to architects and landscape designers throughout the century. In 1771 Edward Stevens, a former apprentice of Sir William Chambers, hung in the Royal Academy's exhibition his plan and elevation of 'the (Roman Villa) Laurentinum of Pliny the Consul' - possibly the first ever reconstruction of a Plinian villa put on display.

Another version of this book was also published 'for the author' in 1728, with English text only and no list of subscribers (ESTC N48775).


A microfilm version was published in 1999 (Woodbridge, Conn.: Primary Source Media).


Acquired by 1802. Recorded in A Catalogue Of The Library In The Royal Academy, London (1802).

Binding Note

18th-century calf; rebacked in 20th century, red morocco spine label lettered 'Castell's Villas Of The Ancients'.

Name as Subject


Architecture, Roman - Villas, Roman - Country houses - Gardens - Italy - History
Art history - Plans - Reconstructions - Great Britain - 18th century
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 18th century